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1969 GM XP 511 Commuter Car Concept

In 1969, General Motors experimented with “urban cars” to increase gas mileage. This is proof that GM planned to get in front of the potential OPEC oil control problems and the predicted energy shortages. The world was told that the world’s oil reserves were running on empty, and we would be out of the resource by 2020.

We now know that the oilfields in North America, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East are massive. The barely tapped reserves in South America, Africa, and the Arctic are not billions of barrels’ worth but several trillion. We can stop holding our breath about running out of oil, but it was a fun time and spawned some interesting vehicle solutions to combat the perceived shortages.

One of GM’s urban vehicle program jewels was the two-seat XP-511 commuter car. Engineers came up with a side-by-side two-seater with three-wheels, looking to shrink down the size of personal vehicles for travel around the city or to and from the suburbs and office. The XP-511’s low center of gravity made it a fun and stable car to drive, especially on curvy roads.

According to GM engineers, two-different steering designs were tried in the vehicle. The first was a handlebar setup with a 2:1 ratio; the other; was the traditional steering wheel system with a 9:1 ratio.

The three-wheel setup was a conventional tricycle design with a tiny wheel up front and two rear wheels. Despite the effort, saving fuel was not in fashion at the time, so GM never took the design to production.

Famous for his design work on GM’s Corvettes, Larry Shinoda was tasked with designing this strange vehicle. Shinoda’s work is identifiable here. Photo from

XP-511 Specs:

  • Overall length: 149.0 inches

  • Wheelbase: 86 inches

  • Overall width: 63 inches

  • Height: 40 inches

  • Ground clearance 4.5 inches

  • Weight: 1,300 pounds

  • CG: 13.5 inches

  • Engine: Four-cylinder Opel

  • Layout: Rear engine/rear whereas-wheel

  • Displacement: 66 cubic inches

  • Horsepower: 67hp @ 6,000 rpm

  • Transmission: Three-speed automatic

  • 0-60 Acceleration: 16 seconds

  • Top Speed: 80 mph

  • MPG: 30-35 (city)

Source: chevyhardcore